We all have immigrant roots, and at one time we were all immigrants. One would never know that the original inhabitants of this land called America ever had any status. They were treated shamefully. Even today, things promised them are empty words. Harsher restrictions, fueled by xenophobic furor and hatred, are being talked about as solutions to our immigrant problem. It’s a complex predicament that we are now ALL part of. How we respond will show what type of people/Christians we are.
My maternal grandparents emigrated here from the small towns of Falbaterra and Frosinone, Italy in 1911. They landed at Ellis Island. They married soon after arriving and eventually settled in Barrington, R.I. They spoke no English. They never really got past “broken English.” But they had a dream to settle in America and start a family and hope for a better life. But it was a hard life. Louis worked extremely hard as a laborer in mason work, and Maria was a housewife and mom to seven children. The three oldest girls had to quit high school and go to work to help with expenses for the family. Even being poor, and with no education to hope for a better job paying more money, they managed to buy a home. That’s impossible for so many today in the U.S. The fourth child, Gene, quit high school and joined the army after World War 2 started. He had a tough time of it in the Pacific theater, but all he wanted was to get home alive and see his dad. That was not to be. Louis Santilli died of a heart attack while Gene was still in the Pacific. Gene was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service. He never spoke of it. We only found out in January of 2016 when he died, just two weeks shy of his 97th birthday. His younger brother found them in a box of his things. My mother, Tresa, was the 5th child and was the first to graduate high school. Her younger sister, Flora, and younger brother, Louis, also graduated high school. Louis went into the Air Force and then went on to college. He did so well that he made Who’s Who in America. He still lives in the family home.
The American dream is so visualized in this family. All of the cousins in this family that started with the Santillis are still close and stay in touch. The Christian ethic of treating your neighbor well and doing unto others as you would have them do to you is alive and well in this family. Leviticus 19:33 and Deuteronomy 10:18-19 speak a commandment from the Lord that is an ongoing theme throughout the bible. “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” Jeremiah 7 speaks of not oppressing the strangers and fatherless, and in Malachi 3, a stern warning is given to those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and those who turn away an alien. In Luke 10, it’s significant that Jesus uses the story of the Samaritan, a people despised by the Jews, as an example of love and compassion for a wounded, half dead Jew attacked by thieves. They didn’t like the parable, but Jesus told them to go and do likewise. He told us to love our neighbor. He made no exceptions.
Today, immigration, and how we treat these people, is a hot topic causing many to be angry and looking to enact laws to harm. I do not agree in open borders. I believe people from certain countries must be thoroughly vetted. But is everyone who’s deficient in English a person who should not be allowed in? Does your country of origin or race or creed dictate whether or not we’ll let you come to the U.S.? We need to do some soul searching. My grandparents came here under conditions many won’t tolerate today. Back then, they were seen by some as Wops, Dagos, Guineas and Guidos. We have similar and much worse names for so many people today that we feel are different from us. That’s really sad. But in the midst of all these things spoken about people we would rather not have near us because they are different, we need to check our hearts. Are we contributing to the hatred? Do we sit back and do nothing when all the vile rhetoric and still echoing political campaign promises sound a discordant note? If so, then we are helping to perpetuate evil. I have written before of how Paul told us in Philippians 2 that we were to be as shining lights in the universe. Offering words of eternal life. It is impossible to do that when hatred spews from our mouths. How we treat others can even cause us to either entertain or reject angels. We never know who every stranger is. If we walk as a believer, it will be seen by others. Jesus said the two most important commandments were we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind and we shall love our neighbor as yourself. You cannot separate them. Remember, we are all one if we are in Christ. We are heirs to the promise. There is an ever growing evil that looks to have us take part in a belief that sows hate and discord. It is not Christ. Examine yourself by His standards to see if you are in the faith. I thank God for Louis and Maria Santilli. I am thankful America opened the door of hope and promise to them all those years ago. We still are a land of promise. Blessings.